Midterm Results Show Health Is Important To Voters But No Magic Bullet


Health care proved important but apparently not pivotal within the 2021 midterm elections on Tuesday as voters gave Democrats control of the U.S. House, left Republicans in charge within the Senate and appeared to order an growth of Medicaid in at least three states long controlled by Republicans.

In taking over the home, Democrats are unlikely to be able to advance many initiatives with regards to health policy, given the GOP's control of the Senate and White House. However they will be able to deliver a highly effective veto to Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, convert the Medicaid health care system for low-income people right into a block grant program making major changes to Medicare.

One likely development is an growth of Medicaid in a number of of the 18 states that had so far not offered coverage provided by the Affordable Care Act. Voters in Idaho and Nebraska easily approved ballot measures with expansion. An identical measure was leading in Utah based on incomplete returns.

In Montana, voters are deciding when the existing expansion should be continued and also the state’s expenses included in raising tobacco taxes. In preliminary results, opponents outnumbered supporters, but key counties weren't likely to release their tallies until Wednesday.

Medicaid might also be expanded in Kansas, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly defeated GOP Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The Kansas legislature had previously passed Medicaid expansion, however it was vetoed in 2021 by former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. Kobach hadn't supported the ACA expansion.

And in Maine, where voters approved Medicaid expansion in 2021 but GOP Gov. Paul LePage refused to apply it, Democrat Janet Mills was victorious. She's promised to follow the voters' wishes. LePage was not running.

The abortion issue seemed to be on the ballot in a number of states. In Alabama and West Virginia, voters approved state constitutional amendments that will make it simpler for the states to ban abortion entirely when the Top court would overturn Roe v. Wade. Oregon voters, on the other hand, defeated a measure that will have restricted public funding of abortion and insurance coverage for abortion.

The mixed results allowed each side of the polarized abortion debate to claim victory.

“This election is really a major victory – for everyone in this country so what about access to healthcare and access to reproductive health care,” Deirdre Schifeling, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, told reporters in a conference call.

Said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president from the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List: “Yesterday would be a clear victory for that pro-life movement. The Senate once more includes a pro-life majority – a ringing affirmation of President Trump's pro-life agenda from the American people, who have seen him deliver on a key promise by appointing two outstanding Top court justices.”

In exit polling, as in many earlier surveys in 2021, voters asserted health care, particularly preserving protections for those who have preexisting conditions, was their top issue. But healthcare remained more important to Democrats rather than Republicans.

Those who urged Democrats to emphasize healthcare this year took credit for the congressional successes. “The race for that House was a referendum on the Republican fight against health care. You know it, Yes, it, and also the Republican incumbents who shamefully tried to hide their real record on healthcare and lost their seats know it,” said Brad Woodhouse of the advocacy group Protect Our Care.

But the problem was not enough to save some from the Senate Democrats in states won by President Donald Trump in 2021. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) was defeated by GOP Attorney General Josh Hawley, who's a plaintiff in a key lawsuit seeking to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), who also campaigned difficult on health care, were defeated.

Nonetheless, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) beat Republican Patrick Morrisey, the state's attorney general who's also a plaintiff within the lawsuit seeking to upend the ACA.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the leader of the House Democrats who'd be first in line to consider over as speaker, told supporters gathered in Washington for any victory celebration that her caucus would make health care a key legislative issue.

“It's about stopping the GOP and [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell's assault on Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act and the healthcare of 130 million Americans living with preexisting medical conditions,” she said. She pledged that Democrats would take “very, quite strong legislative action” to reduce the cost of prescription medications.

In a wide-ranging news conference on Wednesday, Trump struck something of the conciliatory tone toward the new Democratic majority in the House.

“I believe Nancy Pelosi and I can function together to get a many things done,” Trump said. “I suspect [House Democrats] can come track of some fantastic ideas will be able to support – including prescription drug prices.”

Among the numerous new faces in the House is at least one with a few significant experience of health policy. Former Health insurance and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, who ran the department for those eight many years of the Clinton administration, won an open seat in Florida.

Several people in the House and Senate were reelected despite serious ethical and legal troubles. Included in this was Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was charged in August with violating insider trading laws while promoting Innate Immunotherapeutics, a small Australian biotech company.